The lovely village of Lajatico is a Tuscan charmer with a pretty town center set amidst the cultivated hills between Pisa and Volterra. As you walk around the picturesque streets, you'll see lots of photos and posters of Andrea Bocelli. Lajatico has more than a mild devotion to the internationally acclaimed tenor - they adore him, because this is his hometown. In fact, despite Lajatico's long and impressive history as a Medici seat and a strategic town at the border of the territories of Pisa and Florence, it became famous only in recent years, because of Bocelli.
Bocelli remains as devoted to his birthplace as they are to him; so much so that he built a beautiful amphitheater here where he performs, along with other illustrious musicians, once a year. The park is called Il Teatro del Silenzio, and is a gorgeous place that comes alive with the sweet sounds of music, then goes back to silence, like a musical Brigadoon studded with artwork. (See our separate article devoted to the Teatro del Silenzio.)
Lajatico is home to about 1,300 people and is in the hills between the Era and Sterza rivers. It is part of the Valdera (valley of the Era), and you'll find woods, waterfalls, springs and other natural delights, so going for a walk in the area is always pleasant. The nature reserve (called Riserva Naturale del Monterufoli) is a wooded oasis with lots of trails and makes for a great day surrounded by nature. Another worthy walk is the one to the top of the rocky hill where the ruins of the Castello di Pietracassia sit. It's an almost solitary place and a good hike that offers sweeping views when you get there.
The history of Lajatico goes back to the Etruscans and the Romans, though the town itself dates to the Middle Ages when a castle was built here as a strategic outpost. The Medici had significant holdings and influence here; the Villa Spedaleto belonged to Lorenzo il Magnifico, his center of control for the Volterra area. The town became a possession of the noble family Orsini in the 1600s, and they still own the Villa Spedelato; you can see their family crest on the gateway.
In town, the streets wind along the pretty palaces and buildings and lead to the Piazza Vittorio Veneto. There are plenty of shops and cafes and just a nice atmosphere to enjoy. The Torre Civica is the symbol not just of Lajatico but of the entire Valdera. The tall bell tower strikes sonorous tones with the same bell that has been in place since 1279! The town, in solidarity and partnership with Amnesty International, illuminates the tower when a state or nation abolishes the death penalty.
The church of San Leonardo was built in the 13th century. It has been renovated various times, and bears marks of several styles. An Astronomical Center provides instruments and research to the scientific community and universities, and also gives individuals a chance to glimpse astronomical wonders. Guided tours can be arranged, and special events are organized for the public.
The village of Orciatico is administratively part of Lajatico; the medieval hamlet sits about 8 kilometers away on a hill with lovely views of the cultivated countryside.
There are country restaurants, beautiful landscapes, and plenty of towns to explore in the area. Lajatico is northwest of Volterra and south of Pontedera, in the Pisa Province.
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